Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Poets Who Infuenced Me

Roger Stevens

In the 1960s, when I was a teenager at school, I wrote lots of poetry. I found some of it recently in a big box file in the attic. It wasn’t very good. But, and I didn’t know this back then of course, it was the start of my poetry writing career.
Probably the most popular poets in Britain in those days were three men from Liverpool. They were Brian Patten, Adrian Henri and Roger McGough and they published a book in 1967 called The Mersey Sound. They were big favourites of mine. And Roger McGough still is. He writes poems both for children and grown-ups and they are all fantastic.
The reason that these poets influenced me and my writing so much was that they wrote about everyday things and happenings. Wordsworth was wonderful, wandering around the Lake District admiring the daffodils and Keats was cool, gazing at an item of Greek pottery and contemplating the passing of time and the fragility of life, but really I was more interested in finding a girlfriend and going to the cinema.
The Mersey poems didn’t look like the ones we to read at school either. For one thing words were often joined to other words for effect, as in  shockedandsurprised or knockeruppered. They did write about serious things – Sad Aunt Madge or the futility of war – but they wrote silly poems and funny poems as well. They certainly seemed to be enjoying life more than either Wordsworth or Keats.
They made me realise that poetry could be fun. And that you could write a poem about absolutely anything. Football, a bag of chips… even about the pen you were holding to write the poem.
So here’s a challenge. Think of the most unlikely subject for a poem that you can – and then write a poem about it. If you like what you’ve written, send it to the Poetry Zone so that we can all read it.


  1. Did you really post that at 8 minutes past midnight! Does that make you an owl rather than a lark? Really interesting to hear what you say though - sounds very much like my own experience. I can remember what made me particularly interested in children's, or young people's poetry and that was a great anthology that Roger McGough brought out in 1981 called Strictly Private. Definitely not for younger children but a fantastic collection that I've reread so often that it fell to pieces and I had to go and buy a secondhand hardback copy.

  2. Mersey Beat was sooooo cool. And I still love Mcgough's poems. (But Brian Patten is my favourite.) You're dead right about unlikely subjects for poems too - if it's unlikely it'll always have the advantage of being surprising.